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work of the community and must establish channels of cooperation and call upon all social forces to the fullest extent possible.
In spite of much that has been written and said there is vast misunderstanding of the meaning of investigation, and of social case work. Many people still think of an investigation as a process of running around to a lot of people to collect face card data and other comparatively meaningless items; and social case work is conceived as a process by which we get people to behave the way they don't want to behave. In The Art of Helping People Karl de Schweinitz spoke of the importance of an understanding mind. That phrase gets to the heart of it. We do not consult parents, relatives, and other sources of information merely to collect social data, as a census enumerator does, but to enable us to come close to the bewildered, perplexed, and baffled folks who have been unable to adjust themselves to their environment. We who are parents know how hard it is to understand our own children, though we have more knowledge of them than anyone else. How, then, can we expect to be able to advise other parents about the care of their children unless we closely and sympathetically study both their personalities and their environment? A social worker who is always a learner is on the right road.
Why is the father's work record important? Carrying the responsibility of several mouths to feed, have you ever been unemployed? Have you tramped the weary miles, hour after hour, day after day, seeking the elusive job and finding it always beyond your grasp? If you have had this experience you will know the terrible hold it takes, stifling and deadening the finer ideals of life, until the day comes when, if no job appears, despair has you by the throat, and all your former social values have gone. Or have you had jobs and found yourself inefficient, untrained, and unable to keep steady work? You may have tried hard, but you don't quite measure up, so you are the first laid off and the last re-employed. And if you have faced this sense of defeat, has it done anything to your moral fiber, or affected your outlook on life? Or have you had a job at which you could not earn quite enough to meet the daily expenses, be as economical as you could, and have you faced the fearful specter of sickness when you just had to keep on working? And has that experience done anything to you? If you have not had these experiences you have had others, burning, trying times that have strengthened and molded your character, perhaps, or possibly killed some part of you that had seemed beautiful and vital. The purpose of an investigation is to give the worker an understanding of these decisive experiences of his client's life; not to gather legal evidence of wrongdoing, not to probe into the tender places to give needless hurt, but to bring to the distressed person an understanding mind.
Why are physical examinations and a study of a health record important? Have you ever been sick, without the means to provide for yourself and family? Have you ever struggled to keep up the daily routine when fighting a steady pain that seems ready to overpower you, only you won't let it? Have you ever
become run down, lost your appetite, become nervous and irritable, and longed for rest or a vacation, and been unable to take it? Feeling ill, have you worked as a laborer in the heat of the blast furnaces or the dust and dirt of a rag factory? If not these, then other problems of your health have faced you, and you know they have affected your whole life. One cannot know you without knowing of your health. Investigation into the health of a person is to open another channel for the approach of the understanding mind.
Why should a child protective worker seek the aid of a mental clinic? Is it in order to produce another I.Q., that mystic and much misunderstood percentage figure? Or to separate the sane from the insane, the normal from the feebleminded? These are proper objectives, but they are not the reasons. The family that has come to our attention, as child protective workers, has been unable to live and behave as the community thinks it should. We believe that behavior is always caused; that it never just happens. And we believe that much of the cause of behavior, both good and bad, lies hidden in our mental and emotional life. We seek the services of our psychologist and psychiatrist because we know that we can get a qualitative as well as quantitative analysis which will open up another channel for the approach of the understanding mind.
Why is it important to study the effect of the various personalities of a family upon each other? Have you successfully solved the problem of living with all the members of your own family? Are there still some irritating qualities among some of them that get on your nerves? Or do you know social workers who cannot get along with their fellow staff members, and are always rushing from one petty intrigue to another, even though they are advising families how to live in peace and harmony? Or have you, fortunately, a member of your family, or a friend, who believes in you and draws out the best you have and is always an inspiration to you? If you will study your own lives you will see that a knowledge of the members of a family, their friends and relatives, and their effect upon each other opens another approach for the understanding mind.
These, my friends, define an investigation by illustration. The investigation is not an end in itself, but is a method by which one person, equipped in mind and heart, in character and humility, may closely approach and genuinely cooperate with another person in the process we call case work. There is no more difficult undertaking imaginable, and none more worth while.
The child protective worker, faced with the complexities of his task, may shirk his responsibilities by referring all his problems to a court; or he may seek to understand life as it is, with its stresses and strains, its pathetic failures and glorious successes, its cruelties and bitter disappointments. Underneath these, explaining them, if he seeks intelligently and in the right spirit, he will find the strong currents of love and hate, of passion and hunger, of ambition and lovely idealism. When he first comes to his client he may find a human soul being tossed about by these currents, bruised and in danger of annihilation, but if he has prepared well for his opportunity and really brings an understanding mind
he will help this person to control these currents, so that they may bring about, not wreckage, but a more abounding life. And this, my friends, defines case work by illustration.
We will help to make our children safe for our communities when our agencies see the tremendous difficulties and the equally tremendous opportunities of our job, and when we realize that the test of our work for children is found, not in the per capita cost, in the number of children affected, in the shining and immaculate institutions, the size and technical accuracy of case records, nor in the frequency of board meetings, but in the quality of service by which we enrich the physical, mental, and spiritual lives of our charges.
There is more to encourage us in our efforts than paper programs, however inspiring they may seem at conventions. And when the discouragements of our local situations seem to overwhelm us, it is well to remember that high standards of child protection and child care are in actual operation. While there is a great deal to be done, we have come a long way. The work of the Child Welfare League of America is being felt in many parts of the country; in fact the very existence of the League is a mark of progress of which we may well be proud.
A satisfying and increasing number of the child protective agencies are walking along new paths. Here in Cleveland the Humane Society has a department of foster home care, a department of home finding, and a department for work with unmarried mothers. In Buffalo our old Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children now has a department of foster home care, started, if you please, by the funds of an orphan asylum, a juvenile protective department, a department working with difficult older boys, and special workers dealing with delinquent girls. Recently we have abandoned our Shelter, which has been a landmark in the children's work of our community for several decades, and in spite of many doubting Thomases, we are successfully meeting the problem of temporary and emergency child care in subsidized boarding homes. A number of state-wide children's agencies have gone forward so rapidly in the last ten years as to bear little resemblance to their former selves. One of our chairmen of today has rendered remarkable service in a county-wide public agency, and the example of Westchester County has had a marked effect on public work for child welfare. The program of the American Legion, already in effect, is a noteworthy achievement, and is a clear indication of the growing power of real standards in child welfare.
These are only a few of an encouragingly large number of splendid pieces of work being done in the country. These changes are caused by a different attitude on the part of the workers. There is more recognition of the need of trained intelligence. There is infinitely less of satisfied complacency. On all sides there are boards and staffs examining their own work in a critical spirit, measuring results obtained, noting weaknesses, and rebuilding a stronger service. This is true in all parts of the field, but particularly among the institutions. It has become so common as hardly to arouse comment when an institution modifies its
program to include child placing, a careful intake job, an adequate after-care program, or perhaps some more revolutionary change. With the development of training schools for social work there is an increasing flow of trained workers joining our ranks, with the promise of greater achievements for tomorrow.
When we think of the difficulties of our own job, let us think also of these achievements, all of them dearly bought by devoted effort in the face of apparently impossible odds. If we could clearly see the weaknesses of our present work for children and at the same time fully understand the splendid services now being rendered, I am sure we would feel ourselves a part of a forward-moving group, and the discouragements of our isolated efforts would be but spurs to keep us in the front rank.
Not many months ago Mary, twelve years old, was brought to my office by a social worker. Mary had come from another state, where she had been raped at the age of nine by a relative, had spent some months in a child protective agency's shelter, had been returned to the home which had failed to provide for her in the first place, had been later placed by another children's agency with a woman who brought her to Buffalo. This woman was a cat fancier. One day a customer saw Mary locked in a cat's cage. On inquiry as to the reason, the woman said she was "no damn good," and that the customer could have her. Fortunately the customer took her, and soon Mary was in my office. She was covered with scars, where she had been burned by the cigarette stubs of this woman-a favorite form of discipline. Mary, to me, typifies the neglected child of our country. She has never had the loving care and attention which we like to think is the birthright of every child. And as she sat in my office, sizing me up and talking, she asked, "Mister, do you know Anna so and so?" mentioning a child who had recently been under our care. "Yes," I said. "Well, Mister, Anna says it's swell here! Is it swell here?" And she soberly and quite eagerly looked me in the eye. "Yes," I said, "it's swell here-would you like to stay with us?" And after a moment's further scrutiny a beautiful smile came over her scarred face, and holding her hand out to me, she said, "Yes."
My friends, in spite of the kicks and the cuffs, the disappointments and the brutalities she had met, this child had an abiding faith that somewhere a fair chance was waiting for her. She is getting it, but thousands of neglected children all over this country, with their scarred and blighted lives, are looking to the child welfare agencies, asking, "Mister, is it swell here?" May we not go home from this Conference determined to translate our conference programs into realities for these children, so that we may honestly reach out our hands and say, "Yes, Mary, it's swell here."
Brother Barnabas, F.S.C., Executive Secretary, International
Boy Life Bureau of the Knights of Columbus,
Nowadays we are hearing cries going forth about how terrible the present generation of our boys has become. Have we thought that we alone are to blame for whatever has happened to the present-day boy? We hear indictments on all sides against the home, the school, and the church because many of our boys are causing us adults some trouble. The fault does not lie nearly so much in the failure of home, school, and church as it does in the lack of opportunities for clean, wholesome, free-time guidance.
For generations our policy has been to consult only ourselves-the adult portion of the world-when considering ways and means of dealing with our boys. We have tried to deal with the little boy in the same merciless, inhuman, and ineffective manner in which we dealt with the hardened adult criminal if the boy caused us any trouble. Our policy was not to correct, but rather to avenge ourselves. Little, if any, effort was spent on prevention. Our jails and other penal institutions are monuments to the crass stupidity of our methods of handling the character-training of our boys. It really seems that we feel that since we have built the prisons we must hire officers and multiply laws so that we may fill them with the poor unfortunate boys whom we have failed to give opportunities to become wholesome citizens.
Today, thanks to the enlightened attitude of our socially minded students of human nature, we have come to the conclusion that the only method to decrease delinquency in our boys is to begin at the source, by preventing it. We know now that boys are won to good citizenship, not by coercive and repressive means, whereby we try to treat them as men, but by loving attention and wholesome outlets for their boundless energies, wherein they may develop the Godgiven powers with which every normal boy is abundantly blessed.
Within the last generation there has come to the minds of many of our outstanding citizens the conception that if boys are given guidance of an adequate nature during their free time, which really consumes the majority of their waking hours, and when they have the greatest opportunity to develop character, because it is in their free time that they are allowed to make their own decisions, the problem of delinquency will have been solved. As an answer to the call for guidance of our boys there have arisen several great boy work agencies, among the most noted of which are the Boy Scouts of America, in which movement 800,000 men and boys are working together in the cause of citizenship; the Boys' Club Federation, which deals most effectively with the underprivileged boys of our great cities; the Young Men's Christian Association; the Playground and Recreation Association of America; the Woodcraft League; the Big Brothers' Federation; and many smaller organizations. Until recently, however, boys'